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Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth

Staging site


©Alan Martin

©Patricia Harvey

Class: Mammalia

Order: Pilosa

Family: Bradypodidae

Scientific Name: Bradypus variegatus

IUCN Red List status: Least Concern

Protected by the following WLT projects:

Species Range (IUCN)


The Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth is approximately the size of a house cat, ranging from 45-60cm. Like all sloths it has long limbs and a small head for the size of its body. Sloths’ fur hangs ‘backwards’ compared to other mammals, lying from the stomach to their back. This enables the water to run off while it is in a tree. Sloths do not have visible toes but instead have long claws. In this species they have three claws on each foot, which enable them to hang from the branches of trees (2). The brown-throated Tree-toed Sloth can also be distinguished from other species by its brown fur and upturned mouth, giving the sloth a constant ‘smile’.

Despite their name the Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth is often tinged with green due to the growth of blue green algae in its fur, especially in the rainy season. Adult males also have a yellow/orange patch of fur with a black stripe between their shoulders.

Sloths have a low nutrient diet which leads to a slow metabolic rate. To manage this low energy diet they have large segmented stomachs that weigh a third of the sloth’s total weight. The lack of energy means sloths are extremely slow moving and they only move out of the tree once a week to defecate. Maintaining temperature also becomes difficult with a slow metabolism and sloths will move into sunnier parts of a tree to keep warm (2).

Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth
Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth at REGUA. Photo © Lee Dingain


The Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth is found in many Central and South American countries including WLT project areas Brazil, Paraguay and Ecuador. The species was originally also native in Argentina, but has been considered extinct in this country after the last sighting in 1916. They can live in a range of habitats and have been recorded in lowland tropical forest, cloud forest, semi-deciduous forest and montane tropical forest (1).

Threats and Conservation

Although classified as Least Concern by the IUCN Red List, the habitat occupied by the Brown-throated Three-toed Sloth is potentially threatened by habitat destruction.


(1) [IUCN Red List]
(2) [San Francisco State University Geography Department]

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